One set of advances have occurred in the comminution process – the series of mills that crush and then grind the ore until the particles are small enough to separate on the basis of their densities. Other areas of progress include the increased efficiency of ventilation and the reliability of hoist systems. For example, our smart ventilation concept wires airflow sensors into our ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system. This can then optimize air quality throughout the mine and, as a result, halve the electricity needed to run its fans.
There is the ever increasing sophistication of the automation process. In the past, this has been more basic in mines than it has in factories but the latest versions have utterly transformed the way a modern facility works. On the power supply and electrification side, the mining industry is looking for ways to reduce energy consumption, cut costs and pollution by transitioning from diesel to electricity. Finally, the digitalization is creating additional value and visibility from mine to port and from plant to enterprise
In each of these areas, ABB has been responsible for defining what counts as state of the art. In the comminution process, for example, it has pioneered the gearless design in which the mill cylinder becomes the rotor of the motor, which allows the torque to vary without the need for gears. It has since continually raised the power rating of its drives, allowing mills to become ever larger and more powerful. This allows a rise in the quantity of ore processed, which offsets the decline in its quality. We have also been first to fit high-pressure grinding rolls that can operate without water – useful if your mill is 4.5 km above sea level in the Andes, like the Toromocho mine in the Peru, where ABB provided the largest gearless mill drives in the world.